As the father of a five-year-old daughter, I am seeing first hand how the effort to encourage more young entrepreneurs can start at home.
We have the ability to shape our children and introduce them to valuable lessons and concepts.
As an example, this past year my wife and I introduced a bi-weekly allowance for my daughter if she made her bed and cleaned up her room when asked. It didn’t really mean much to her, until she learned that she could buy toys and Barbies with her allowance – with money.
She quickly started to learn the value of money. The more money she saved, the more Barbies she could potentially buy. It was very simple. She understood immediately – and she was excited about it.
I remember the first time we went to Walmart to shop for new Barbies. My daughter brought her purse with $20 from her piggy bank. She went from Barbie to Barbie all down the aisle . . . trying to decide which one to get. She finally decided on Rainbow Barbie, a doll with a cool outfit and bright multi-coloured hair.
Fast forward to this summer. I explained to my daughter that there were other ways to make more money if she wanted to. She did. She asked what she could do and we talked about opening a lemonade stand. Mommy and daddy could help make lemonade and then she could sell it from a table at the end of our driveway.
She got really excited. “Can we sell Mr. Freezes and ice cream sandwiches too?” she asked.
Hannah’s Summer Treats was born.
To keep her excited, we went online and had a logo designed. Next, we ordered a T-shirt, banner and yard sign. Hannah was in business. All she needed now was her supplies. We picked up some cans of lemonade concentrate, a box of ice cream bars and several packs of Mr. Freeze. We picked a day for her grand opening and created an event on Facebook.
The day came to launch her business. We set up a table at the end of the driveway, complete with an umbrella from our back deck. We had a cooler stocked with supplies and ice, a cash box and used a large drink dispenser for the lemonade. We opened for three hours the first day, and Hannah had $65 in sales thanks to our family, friends, neighbours and a few passers by.
All in all, her grand opening was a success. When it came to the money, I explained that in business, there are revenues and expenses. I tallied up all of her costs and showed her that she had more expenses than revenue because of the logo, signs and supplies we had to buy. To keep her motivated we deferred some of the costs to be paid back over time, and Hannah collected a share of the profits to add to her piggy bank. She was overjoyed.
We decided that we would open Hannah’s Summer Treats every few weeks throughout the summer. Her second time, she brought in close to $50. Again, we went through the expenses and Hannah took home a portion. In just six hours of working for herself, she brought in what would have taken her three and a half months to do with just her allowance.
So far Hannah has had a lot of fun, she is proud of her business and excited about having her pop-up lemonade stand. She is learning a little bit about business and gaining an understanding of revenues and expenses.
When it comes to business, nothing beats doing.
I will use this as a stepping stone to other business ventures with Hannah as she grows up. I hope that she will be just as excited about it as she is right now.
Imagine if we all could introduce our kids to the world of entrepreneurship, and our schools could reinforce and take it further. When the time came, entrepreneurship would be just as valid a choice as getting a job after graduation.
We would see more young entrepreneurs in our community. We would have more entrepreneurs to take over existing businesses that lack a succession plan and might otherwise close. Our business community would be energized and we may even spur some high-growth, world-class businesses.
As the founder and community lead for StartUP Sault Ste. Marie, I often think about how we as a community can encourage and raise more young entrepreneurs in Sault Ste. Marie.
The fact is, there are many things we can do at home, school and out in the community.
As parents we can encourage our children to explore and leverage opportunities to make their own money – by making and selling things (crafts, desserts, lemonade), by offering services that people will pay for (fixing computers, training people on how to use digital devices, mowing lawns, shoveling snow), or by creating information that is valuable (blogging, ebooks, research).
Our schools can train and educate students by incorporating entrepreneurship to a greater extent. I can recall as a child in school, playing “store” in fourth or fifth grade. This introduces children to buying and selling, and money – all important concepts.
But we can go further – we can talk about great inventors and great entrepreneurs (not often the same people) and how entrepreneurs are often the visionaries to create new products or technology that didn’t exist before, or commercial applications for that technology (think iPhone, digital currency, Facebook, Netflix). We can get kids excited about creating things, building things and selling things.
We want our children to think bigger. We want them to know that anything is possible. That with the right idea and the right resources they can build something, invent something or make money from something.
By building a base in elementary school, these ideas can be reinforced in high school through entrepreneurship classes, and technology classes. We can continue to build the skills, and encourage the pursuit of opportunities. This is also the time when students get access to programs like Summer Company from the Ontario government. This program, delivered locally by the Millworks Centre for Entrepreneurship, provides business training and mentoring as well as up to $3,000 for students (aged 15-29) to start their own summer business.
I think our university and college can also do more to integrate entrepreneurial thinking into all learning streams. The best entrepreneurs are not always business students. They are individuals who have been trained to look for and take advantage of opportunities. Opportunities to make and sell something, opportunities to deliver a service to capitalize on something, opportunities to invest resources in something with high potential growth.
The students and graduates who see these opportunities are often working or studying in science, or computers, or even the arts. They come from all streams. Now imagine if these students with the ability to see opportunities also had the skills, knowledge and networks to turn opportunities into thriving businesses? I believe they can if our educational institutions can provide a better link with entrepreneurship.
This could be achieved by requiring every student, regardless of discipline to take an entrepreneurship course early in their post-secondary program. This could be achieved by counting as elective credits, the participation in business planning competitions, or pitch contests or other activities that force students of all programs to “collide”, share ideas, and pursue opportunities.
We want to graduate more entrepreneurs who take the risk to start their own business, or more entrepreneurial employees who have the mindset of an entrepreneur and can apply those skills and talents within their job.
So where do we begin?
There are some great local programs that help to do this like Head Start in Business’ programs and its Youth Enterprise Camp, Summer Company, and the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre’s YouLaunch program (college/university). These are a great start, but I argue that more needs to be done. More of a continuum of learning, training and reinforcement is required.
What do you think? How can we raise more entrepreneurs in Sault Ste. Marie? Let me know your thoughts!
An entrepreneur since age 12, Sault Ste. Marie author and StartUP Sault founder, Nevin Buconjic has launched and operated eight businesses and helped hundreds of entrepreneurs and small business owners to start and grow their companies.
In 2014, Buconjic founded StartUP Sault (part of the Startup Canada network) to bring local entrepreneurs together and build a supportive startup community through regular meetups and events. Since then the volunteer organization has held over 50 events including boot camps, startup book club, pitch contests and most recently co-hosted the 2018 Regional Startup Canada Awards in June.
In 2017 Nevin was awarded the Startup Canada Entrepreneur Promotion Award for advancing the environment and culture of entrepreneurship in Canada. His first book, 25 Money-Making Businesses You Can Start in Your Spare Time, sold over 8,000 copies.
In his latest book, Buconjic shares real-world tips, advice and strategies for starting and growing a successful small business. This second edition has been fully updated and expanded since it was originally published as an eBook in 2013 and is offered as a paperback for the first time.
“What I have found working with new entrepreneurs, is they are often overwhelmed when getting started, and many times don’t follow through with their ideas, states Buconjic. “But the process of starting a business doesn’t have to be complex. In my book I layout the steps involved while providing advice along the way. I even share my story of how I started my latest venture in a week, for less than $250.”
The practical small business guide, entitled Starting Your Own Business: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting and Growing a Small Business, is full of real-world tips, advice, and strategies for starting your own successful small business. Readers will learn about:
Each chapter provides links to other notable sources of information and resources available to entrepreneurs in Canada and the U.S., including government programs. A companion webpage indexes all of the links referenced in the paperback version, making it easy for readers to access additional resources quickly.
Buconjic launched the new book recently at the Northern Ontario Book Fair, held in Sault Ste. Marie August 10-12th. The book fair featured nine Northern Ontario authors who signed books and met readers. The book fair also stocked books from over 40 other Northern Ontario authors.
Both of Nevin’s books are now available as paperbacks and Kindle eBooks on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca. You can also learn more via his website at www.nevinbuconjic.com
Originally published in February 2018 on Sootoday.com
StartUP Sault Ste. Marie is celebrating four years of community building and strengthening of our local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Together with our community partners and fellow entrepreneurs we are making a difference.
StartUP Sault began in early 2014, as a grass-roots movement and has since connected with thousands of entrepreneurs, students and business owners in the community. StartUP Sault has hosted more than 40 events, meetups, pitch contests, film screenings, book clubs, networking events and more.
We connect entrepreneurs with the small business resources available in the community, and provide the support of existing entrepreneurs who are building successful companies. Our programs and events continue to evolve, in the interest of supporting the startup and growth of local businesses.
Many people do not realize that StartUP Sault is completely volunteer driven. We do incredible things with very little resources. This isn’t our job and we don’t receive government funding to do what we do. We are just passionate entrepreneurs who want to build our community.
We are grateful for the sponsorship and partnership dollars we are able to leverage from community partners and in some cases from Startup Canada. Without our partners, we couldn’t hold events that involved renting venues and other costs.
In 2017 alone, StartUP Sault held four Startup Drinks meetups, four Book Clubs, a Startup Pitch Night (with nearly $2,000 in prizes), two boot camp training sessions (finance and social enterprise boot camp) and two speaker series events. Most events are free, and we want to continue to host bigger, better and even more valuable events to support our members and build our community.
We are part of a bigger picture, however. Startup Canada, a national movement, has been connecting, and supporting entrepreneurs across the country for just over five years. The flagship program of Startup Canada is the Startup Communities program. Now numbering more than 50 communities across Canada (we were #19), local entrepreneurs and community champions are volunteering their time and efforts to support local startups and connect local entrepreneurs.
Every Startup Community is different, but they have one common goal, which is to support and grow their local entrepreneurs and help build a supportive ecosystem where startups can thrive.
StartUP Sault announced last week, a new membership program that allows its members to support local entrepreneurship while accessing exclusive benefits. We launched a membership program that is pay-what-you-want, in order to be more inclusive for the community. Community members can sign up for a free membership to access members-only special events and programs, and get listed in our online directory. Free members can also stay in the loop and attend free upcoming events and meetups.
The next tiers of $10, $20 and $40 also get access to exclusive programs like the upcoming Startup Cafe Mentorship program, and access to a members-only Facebook Page where they can share resources, and ask for advice or ask questions to other local entrepreneurs. Facebook Groups are powerful tools, while maintaining privacy, so members are often more willing to ask questions or share details about their own business.
We welcome all of our local entrepreneurs to sign up for a StartUP Sault membership – free or paid, so that they can get involved. Only together can we build a supportive, thriving ecosystem in Sault Ste. Marie.
Any revenues derived from the membership program directly support the growth of StartUP Sault and the development and hosting of unique events, learning opportunities and networking sessions.
StartUP Sault is supporting the growth and development of our members and connecting entrepreneurs in the community. We welcome the support of our members as well as the business community in general.
To become a member or learn more about StartUP Sault, please visit www.startupsault.ca. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to keep up to date on Startup Sault events, startup tips and other useful information
Originally published in February 2018 on Sootoday.com
For most wantrepreneurs (wannabe entrepreneurs), coming up with the right business idea is often the biggest obstacle. But sometimes an opportunity falls in your lap that you didn’t consider before. I consider myself a serial entrepreneur, having started many different businesses over the years, and this recently happened to me.
As an entrepreneur, I am always thinking about different business ideas and opportunities. I have operated various types of businesses over the years (nearly all part-time), everything from web design, computer camps, consulting, training, blogging, indie book publishing, online product sales and more. But a recent experience spurred my latest side business or “side hustle” if you will.
A friend reached out to me, asking if I could help his colleague with their resume. Over the last decade or so I have helped numerous friends and family members to build or revamp their resumes, with great success. Since my free time is at a premium these days, I agreed to help for $50 per hour and they accepted.
First, I reviewed the client’s existing resume and then we met for coffee to get into more detail about her work history, skills and ambitions for the future. I really enjoyed the process. The result was a much more powerful resume, and my client was very pleased.
Then it occurred to me. Everyone I had helped over the years had experienced success with their new resumes…they had either gotten the job they were after or at the very least landed interviews. They also felt much more confident with their qualifications.
It turns out I have a knack for helping people extract valuable transferable skills and accomplishments from their work history, many they didn’t even realize they had. Through my own experience and background, I have learned what skills and talents make someone a valuable team member. I can then wordsmith these accomplishments, crafting a narrative in the form of an attractive, powerful resume.
And now I realized clients were willing to pay me for this service.
I am not a certified resume writer, or job counselor…so what qualifies me to help clients with their resume? It turns out that my nearly 20 years of experience in business development, marketing, entrepreneurship, management, and personal branding has given me an edge. I have hired my own employees and have been involved in hiring at several positions I have held over the years. I know what skills I look for in candidates and have worked with enough talented colleagues to recognize the skills necessary to be successful and effective in any organization.
Shortly after my own revelation, I began the process of establishing and launching my new service. It would focus on resume development and personal brand development – something I have had success with, as a published author, brand advocate for Blackberry, and Startup Canada Award winner. With hard work and a plan, it is possible to craft your own story, while building authority and expertise in a particular niche or industry.
How does this apply to you? Think about it. We all have talents, experience and qualifications that we can utilize to operate a side hustle. Would you be happy making extra money in your spare time doing something you enjoy?
Side hustles are often low-cost operations that fit your schedule, and your lifestyle. Work as much or as little as you’d like (in your spare time), and who knows, you might find there is enough demand (and satisfaction) to someday make it a full-time venture.
With this in mind, I will describe each step and the costs incurred to launch my new business in less than a week. It is easier and less expensive than you might think!
You might have noticed that the grand total was actually $285. However, in my case I did not register the new business, as I intend to offer the service under another existing business I operate, saving me $60. Therefore I only spent $225.
It is important to recognize that there are some other important steps along the way. As soon as I decided on the business name/domain name, I made sure to secure the name on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media platforms. Again, you want to be consistent across mediums so that your customers and clients can find you.
You may have noticed that I did not mention writing a business plan and performing a lot of market research to ensure the business was feasible. I did make a plan, but it was a one-page business plan – identifying what my ideal client looks like, our unique selling proposition (what makes us different), how I will market the service, a startup budget and more.
Since this is another side business for me, there isn’t a lot to lose. There is no inventory or major expenses to incur. Since I am offering a service, it is just my time, which is valuable to me, but doesn’t technically cost me anything.
Because my costs are so low, this will be a worthwhile venture even with one client a month.
Once my website was complete, I shared the news of this new service on Facebook and LinkedIn. My Facebook page already has over 40 likes and continues to grow. From there I was confident I could connect with new clients through word-of-mouth referrals and social media alone. To date I have not spent any money on advertising, but instead rely on social media and word-of-mouth.
Feel free to check out my website at www.brandme.social. I’d love to hear your feedback or answer any questions you may have about starting your own side business.
The easiest way to get into business is to get started with as little cost and risk as possible. I have shown you how to launch a new business in a week for less than $250. What is holding you back?
Originally published in March 2017 on Sootoday.com
StartUP Sault Ste. Marie recently celebrated three years as a catalyst for building a supportive and knowledgeable “Startup Community” in Sault Ste. Marie.
Through our partnerships, activities, programs and tools, StartUP Sault Ste. Marie has worked to engage local entrepreneurs, facilitated the sharing of knowledge, helped educate the business community and promoted entrepreneurship as a satisfying career option.
Sault Ste. Marie, as with many communities, has challenges to overcome to achieve continued growth, support its citizens and in general remain a great place to live, work and play. To realize these broader goals, it is imperative the community’s business sector continue to grow, and thrive.
For our business community to continue to grow, Sault Ste. Marie needs more entrepreneurs — more entrepreneurs to start new businesses, more entrepreneurs to take over existing businesses and more entrepreneurs to create new products and services.
Sault Ste. Marie has a shortage of entrepreneurs. We need more to achieve growth and prosperity for our community. We need to graduate more entrepreneurs, not just employees. We need to foster more interest in entrepreneurship as a career option for youth. We need to support creativity and the development of new ideas, solutions and opportunities.
Entrepreneurship isn’t just about running a business. It is a mindset. It is about solving problems and being innovative. Successful entrepreneurs solve their customers’ problems and pain points – sometimes even creating solutions to problems we don’t realize we have yet.
Entrepreneurship in our schools should involve enhancing our creative, problem solving skills with a healthy mix of studying successful entrepreneurs and what it takes to start and grow a business.
We need to ensure our elementary and high schools are teaching entrepreneurship. We should be teaching our young people meaningful technology skills. We should be improving creativity and problem-solving skills.
Finally, we should be mashing all of this together through opportunities in idea generation, business simulations and the opportunity to launch real-world businesses.
Sault Ste. Marie’s post-secondary programs need to reinforce the entrepreneurial mindset by incorporating entrepreneurship into more programs. We can’t expect to graduate more entrepreneurs when their exposure to the subject is limited to one or two classes during their three or four years of schooling.
In order to build an entrepreneurial culture in Sault Ste. Marie, we need to develop a mindset where entrepreneurship is accepted and encouraged as a career option, the same as getting a job. After all, times have changed. Millennials are now faced with the reality that there are no job guarantees.
We must engage more with potential entrepreneurs and better promote the various programs and services offered to assist in starting local businesses.
To better service existing entrepreneurs, the community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem should collaborate more to assist entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses.
The ‘Catalyst’ — a project that is led by the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (SSMEDC) and partnered with StartUP Sault Ste. Marie, aims to create a “one-door approach” to services in Sault Ste. Marie for small business assistance.
The project team includes representatives from various organizations in the community such as the Millworks Centre for Entrepreneurship, Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, the Community Development Corporation of Sault Ste. Marie & Area, the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, BDC, Social Enterprise Evolution and more.
The objective is to coordinate services, identify gaps, and develop tools for directing entrepreneurs more efficiently to the available services in the community. Building on the Startup Roadmap, developed last year by StartUP Sault, which identified services available at the Idea, Launch and Growth phases, the project aims to create a “continuum” of services to guide entrepreneurs on each step of their journey.
The one-door approach will mean that no matter which organization an individual contacts first – they can be seamlessly pointed to the appropriate organization or resource available in the community to best assist them.
Despite best efforts of these partners, the general public does not often understand what services exist in the community to help start or grow a business. The Catalyst project is designed to help in this regard.
As I have laid out here, there are many things we can do together as a community and entrepreneurial ecosystem that can enhance the potential success and growth of our small business sector.
We will continue to make progress and pursue our goals, but it is important to understand that we all have a role to play in building up our community. It is much easier to build when we are all pushing in the same direction.
Originally published in January 2016 on Sootoday.com
There are many reasons to start a business — to earn extra money, be your own boss, do something you love, even change the world.
But as we approach tax time, many of you may not realize that a small business can provide significant tax benefits as well. Because a small business can incur significant costs during startup and beyond, these expenses can be written off against the business’ and even your personal income.
Now, before we continue, I want to provide the disclaimer than I am not an accountant, tax attorney or even a bookkeeper – and I cannot legally provide tax advice. I will however, talk about my own experiences. I have been an entrepreneur for many years, and have benefited personally from small business write-offs (mostly from part-time businesses).
While there are advantages and disadvantages of different business structures such as partnerships or corporations, for tax purposes I prefer the simplest of all business structures – the sole proprietorship.
“The owner of a sole proprietorship has sole
responsibility for making decisions, receives
All the profits, claims all losses, and does
not have separate legal status from the business”.
– Canadian Revenue Agency
In a sole proprietorship, any business losses are written-off against your personal income. In other words, if expenses exceed revenues (considered a business loss) in your business, then the loss can be used to actually lower your taxable income.
Depending on the type of business you are in or plan to start, the expenses involved in buying equipment, software or tools could be significant. Not to mention other costs like rent, advertising, and high-speed Internet. All of these expenses, especially in the first few years, may result in a business loss (on paper) which in turn may provide a write-off against your income.
Do you run the business out of your home? Then the portion of your home utilized for the business – a home office, garage or kitchen table may be written off. In other words, based on the square footage of that work space (let’s say 10% of the home’s square footage), a percentage of your utility bill, Internet, telephone and other costs may be eligible. These deductions can really add up.
Do you use your personal vehicle for business? Do you drive to client meetings, travel for your business, or make the odd delivery? Then a portion of the costs of operating the vehicle for your business may be deductible as well. But make sure to keep accurate records of the mileage, fuel and other costs associated with the vehicle. A log book is handy to record mileage each time the vehicle is used for business.
While some costs can be directly deducted against revenue, others like equipment and other assets need to be amortized over several years (capital cost allowance or CCA), based on Canada Revenue Agency rules. For example, typically a computer is considered a Class 10 property with 30% CCA. In other words, 30% of the cost of the computer is deductible each year – however, in the first year of use only half of that can be deducted. Therefore, for a $1,000 laptop purchased for the business, $150 is deductible the first year, $300 the second year etc. until the full amount is deducted.
Sound complicated? To ensure you are following the rules, as well as maximizing small business write-offs, I highly recommend the use of a bookkeeping or accounting firm. In my case, I have utilized bookkeeping services from Marian’s Bookkeeping for many years – for both business and personal taxes.
Often times running a part-time or side business can provide the greatest tax benefits, because of the additional deductions, which in the end are applied against your salary or personal income from your full-time job.
But before you decide to turn a hobby into a part-time business or start a business just so you can write-off all of your electronic gadgets, consider this. For the CRA to consider your business as “real” and allow you to utilize small business deductions, your business must have a reasonable expectation of profit. In other words, turning a hobby into a new business (photography for example) is ok, as long as it is not just an excuse to buy all of the latest camera equipment for your own personal use. You must actually be attempting to bring in revenues and eventually earn a profit. This is an important distinction – one to definitely keep in mind.
So if it wasn’t already a fantastic idea to start your own business, tax deductions can make the idea even sweeter. Think about that as you write that cheque to pay your taxes this spring!
Originally Printed in Northern Ontario Business, October 2015.
Although I have been out of school for many years, when September comes around, I still feel the excitement of the first day of school. Maybe not the hopes or fears that kids feel…but definitely a sense of an opportunity for new beginnings, or simply a perfect time to reevaluate my business and personal goals.
Like many of you, I like to make personal goals — whether it is to get back to the gym, eat better, or simply read more. Whatever it might be, it’s important to challenge ourselves. The same goes for your business. At regular intervals you should be evaluating your business, developing goals and planning your next steps.
Perhaps you want to expand your local business, change the menu at your diner, add a new product line, or move into a bigger retail space. One of the best ways to approach goal setting is to follow the SMART principle. SMART is an acronym used in goal setting and strategic planning, and means your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
In 2012, I set a goal to write my first book. I have counselled and assisted hundreds of entrepreneurs, and spoken to even more students about opportunities in entrepreneurship. I wanted to share my experiences and business knowledge with others interested in following their dreams. I made the following goal:
I am going to write a book to show people how to start their own business, sharing my personal lessons, stories and business knowledge. I will write the book in 3 months. I will self-publish my book as a digital ebook on Amazon.com, and promote my book using various strategies I have learned. I will sell 5,000 copies in the first 3 years.
I completed the book in three months. However, this is where the plan changed. While editing my book, I decided to remove a whole chapter. Since my book was still being finalized, I decided to turn the single chapter into its own ebook and publish it on Amazon just for the experience. “25 Money-Making Businesses You Can Start in Your Spare Time” was born.
I learned everything I could about self-publishing and promoting your own books. I put a launch strategy in place, which included offering free copies of my book to Amazon customers. To my amazement, my promotional efforts worked extremely well. Over time my book sales accelerated, and within seven months I sold 2,000 copies. Less than nine months later I had sold 4,000 copies and in another two months I broke the 5,000 mark!
I tracked sales on a daily basis and modified my marketing strategy as I went. I was averaging over 300 sales a month – and in my best month sold over 500 copies. By setting a specific, measurable, relevant and time-bound goal, I achieved success. If I had simply decided to write a book, with no plan, I may have never finished.
In the end I did self-published my original book (Starting Your Own Business: An Entrepreneur’s Guide), but my chapter-turned-book has outsold it almost 10:1. Had I never adapted that single chapter, I might have never accomplished my goal, and never realized that I could be a successful self-published author!
Using the SMART principle I was able to set a goal that worked for me. When things changed, I adapted, but continued completing tasks required to reach my goal. To be honest, I didn’t know if I would ever sell 5,000 copies, but today I look back on this experience and I am so glad that I set such a challenge for myself.
So as you say goodbye to summer and start to focus more on your business, take the time to evaluate your existing goals, and if you don’t have any – make some.
In the end it works, and you will be feel a sense of accomplishment each time you reach your goal, not to mention reaping the rewards that come along with it.
Originally Printed in Northern Ontario Business, July 2015.
I often meet people who are intrigued by the idea of starting their own business, but are intimidated by the fact that they have no experience or simply don’t know where to begin.
What I say to these people is, “Start slow, focus on your idea, and ask for help when you need it.”
In my last article (in Northern Ontario Business) I talked about all of the free resources available to entrepreneurs in Northern Ontario. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the programs, funding and business advisory services available in their communities.
The act of starting a business use to be inherently more risky than it is today. With the Internet and social media, today’s entrepreneurs have access to knowledge, tools and resources that never existed before.
Where market research may have once involved going to the library to look up company (competitor) information, or annual reports, or conducting a survey via mail or the telephone, today budding entrepreneurs can access incredible volumes of information, news and data as they research their ideas and potential markets from the comfort of their home or even on their mobile device.
Also available is access to customers, friends and colleagues who can provide feedback in real-time. Online survey tools such as Survey Monkey allow users to effortlessly capture both quantitative and qualitative data and valuable customer feedback – and the results are compiled into fancy graphs and charts for you.
Social media provides unprecedented access to millions of people, celebrities, friends, customers and even competitors. Social media offers a powerful platform for building brand awareness and crafting both creative and inexpensive marketing.
Through the Internet, one can launch a new business practically overnight. Online tools like Wix (www.wix.com) allow you to build a website, and even take online payments in a matter of hours.
For literally a few hundred dollars you can launch a new online business and test your business concept in the real world. No more spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to launch a new business that may fail in the end.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that entrepreneurs skip the whole research component of their business concept, or fail to crunch the numbers to see if their idea is feasible. But just as times have changed, full-blown business plans are also becoming less popular – in favour of faster, more valuable tools such as one-page business plans, or a business model canvas.
Today entrepreneurs are encouraged to launch quickly, get customer feedback and then refine their product or business model accordingly. Whether launching a new mobile app, a digital ebook or a physical product, today it is easier than ever to gain valuable feedback directly from customers, and use that feedback to make your product better before investing too heavily.
I recommend that you pick up a copy of The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future, by Chris Guillebeau, if you’d like some inspiration about launching a new business for very little money. The author interviewed thousands of entrepreneurs who launched meaningful businesses for a very modest investment. The book is both insightful and inspirational, as these entrepreneurs launched successful businesses doing what they loved or are passionate about.
I can hear many of you saying to yourselves, “I would love to start a business, but I have a full-time job or I work multiple part-time jobs just to make ends meet.”
Starting a simple business now can be a stepping stone for later.
Get your feet wet with a low-cost, part time business. In my Amazon.com best-selling book, 25 Money-Making Businesses You Can Start in Your Spare Time, I share 25 business opportunities that you can start part-time, and in most cases with very little capital. These are businesses that can put you through school, provide extra income, or lead to bigger and better opportunities down the road.
Just a few examples include providing virtual assistant services, affiliate marketing, writing ebooks, offering tutoring services and even selling physical products on Amazon.com.
Most of the ideas in my book come from my own personal experience or that of my clients, colleagues and fellow entrepreneurs. I have met many individuals who started with a hobby or a passion and turned it into a full-time business – one that exceeded all of their expectations. In many cases they were able to leave their full-time jobs as the business grew.
To read up on even more business ideas you can use today, feel free to check out my book on www.amazon.ca or www.amazon.com, available in paperback and Kindle ebook.
If you’ve ever considered starting your own business, now is the time. Take the next step…get started today!
Originally published on www.northernontariobusiness.com, April 24, 2015
The importance of small business to Northern Ontario cannot be overstated.
Northern Ontario is a region heavily dependent on resource-based industry, from mining and forestry to steel. Our economies ebb and flow with the cycles of big business and industry.
Most of our cities and towns learned long ago, that relying solely on resource-based industry and traditional manufacturing is a recipe for disaster. Communities like Sault Ste. Marie have worked hard to diversify their economies for many years, with varying degrees of success.
While they are now much less reliant on these major industries, the fact remains that they still represents the bulk of private sector jobs in our communities. Just look at the impact of the latest recession on the forestry sector in Ontario, or the impact of low oil prices on Tenaris Algoma Tubes and other companies that supply the oil sector.
When these commodity-based sectors have economic challenges, jobs are often lost and communities can be devastated. We are left with the small businesses that call each community home. I think most people would agree that a thriving small business scene is an essential component of a healthy and happy community.
Small business drives innovation, leads job creation and builds wealth like no other economic engine in our nation. Over 98% of businesses in Canada have less than 100 employees, and small business employs almost 70% of the private workforce.
Small business helps to grow and strengthen our communities, and strong communities attract greater investment.
What can we do to encourage and support new business startups in Northern Ontario?
There are many organizations across the north that deliver small business support services and government funding programs.
Ontario’s Small Business Enterprise Centres provide business advisory services and assistance for new businesses, and are located in Sudbury, Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Thunder Bay and Kenora.
The Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, NORCAT in Sudbury, the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre in Thunder Bay, IION in North Bay and the Productivity and Innovation Centre in Timmins work with technology and science companies to build those sectors in their perspective communities.
Small business incubators offer affordable office space, access to shared resources, training and more. Co-working spaces are popping up, where entrepreneurs, freelancers, consultants, or anyone for that matter, can rent a desk for the day, week or month. These co-working spaces are often open-concept, and encourage collaboration and networking.
There is no shortage of small business resources available to both new and existing entrepreneurs in the north. There are also additional funding programs through NOHFC, Fednor, Community Futures Development Corporations and more.
If support that is the problem. Perhaps potential entrepreneurs are unaware of these resources. No matter how well these organizations promote themselves and their services, there will be those who never get the message.
In Sault Ste. Marie, we are trying to fix this. I founded StartUP Sault (part of the Startup Canada network) in early 2014, to help build a thriving startup community.
With the support of Startup Canada, our local community enterprise partners and an amazing team of volunteers, StartUP Sault works to connect local entrepreneurs via learning and networking opportunities, and events like Startup Drinks and Startup Book Club.
The goal of StartUP Sault is to provide regular meetups and build a sense of community among local entrepreneurs. By regularly coming together, we are enhancing the opportunities to collaborate, share knowledge and even partner on new business ventures.
We have found that StartUP Sault events attract younger entrepreneurs, as well as budding entrepreneurs of all ages – often a different demographic than other business or networking events. We are reaching people that perhaps need support the most.
We can connect those entrepreneurs with others who are willing to help, and also direct them to the appropriate community partners – whether they need help with their business plan, startup advice, or funding to get started.
StartUP Sault and the 19 other startup communities across the country are all volunteer-driven and led by entrepreneurs with a long-term vision of building an environment that supports new startups and the growth of existing small business.
In a recent visit to Sault Ste. Marie, Startup Canada CEO, Victoria Lennox connected with incubator clients at the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, spoke to business students at Sault College, met with our community enterprise partners and toured Mill Square, the former St. Mary’s Paper site now being redeveloped.
Before boarding her flight home, Victoria commented that great things are happening in Sault Ste. Marie and that StartUP Sault is making a difference.
Perhaps in the years to come, all of our northern cities will become thriving startup communities. All it takes is the will to make it happen, and a few entrepreneurs to drive the charge. I believe it can be done.
For more information about StartUP Sault, visit www.startupsault.ca.
Originally published February 2, 2015 on Sootoday.com
“Building a business is not rocket science; it’s about having a great idea and seeing it through with integrity.” – Sir Richard Branson
As the tremendously successful entrepreneur, Richard Branson states in the above quote, starting and building a business isn’t rocket science — in fact much of it is common sense, luck and the ability to see opportunities that others do not.
According to Dr. Michael G. Goldsby, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Ball State University, “Entrepreneurship is fundamentally about seeing what is missing from the world and then figuring out a way to make it better. Great entrepreneurs see problems as opportunities. The best way to create a successful business is to solve the problems of their customers.”
Successful entrepreneurs take risks. They are not afraid to fail, and many entrepreneurs fail numerous times before becoming truly successful. These “failures” are seen as opportunities to learn what not to do next time. In Silicon Valley, the home of Facebook, Google and many others, entrepreneurs see their failed businesses as a badge of honor – and even investors view them as invaluable experience.
Although risk-taking is one of the qualities of successful entrepreneurs, you can minimize your financial risks by starting your business on a part-time basis and keeping your day job. Often times you can operate a home-based business, until you prove your concept, or build your business to the point you are ready to expand.
This will allow you to grow your business slowly, keeping things manageable, and utilizing minimal resources. I know a number of entrepreneurs who operate successful part-time businesses, including photographers, web designers, and consultants.
I run several businesses of my own on a part-time basis, and of the six businesses I have started in my life, only one of them started out as a full-time business. I am a big fan of “bootstrapping” your business, which means starting and growing a business on a small budget, utilizing inexpensive and often free methods for marketing your business, and gradually growing and reinvesting in the business over time. By not incurring debt to start the business, there is less risk involved and your biggest investment is your time and effort.
Some of you may have heard of the concept of “Lean Startup”. While much of it applies to the software industry, the essential take away is to get your product to market as soon as possible for the lowest cost possible. The idea is to launch a “minimum viable product” – one that isn’t perfect or ready for prime time, but one that works and you can utilize to get feedback from customers.
You will use that feedback to improve the product to one that is ready.
In other words, get to market as quickly as possible with a product and then improve the product from the feedback you receive. We see this process occurring all the time online – where companies often release software or apps for free, build large user bases, collect feedback and improve the product over time. Through this process, they prove their ideas are marketable, build significant user bases, and eventually release a paid version to generate revenue.
Startup Sault’s December book club featured Chris Guillebeau’s best-selling book, The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make A Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future. The book features interviews with thousands of successful entrepreneurs who have started microbusinesses — businesses they started for a couple of hundred dollars. What he finds is that many of the entrepreneurs followed a similar pattern, “get started quickly and see what happens.”
Guillebeau is an advocate of this method, and adds that “there’s nothing wrong with planning, but you can spend a lifetime making a plan that never turns into action. In the battle between planning and action, action wins.” So while planning is important (failure to plan is like planning to fail, as the quote goes), many entrepreneurs are moving away from developing full business plans before starting their business.
Many practitioners are promoting the concept of focusing on developing the business model rather than spending time writing a business plan. Others are resorting to one-page business plans that answer the essential questions about the business, while skipping over much of the detailed analysis and planning.
Because a lot of new entrepreneurs find the thought of trying to write a full-blown business plan as daunting, these alternatives provide the opportunity to plan your business while not getting too bogged down before you even begin.
So don’t get discouraged if you don’t know where to begin. “Anyone can come up with a great business idea if they are willing to take the time to learn the right skills and build the right toolkit to get it done,” says Dr. Goldsby.
And building the right toolkit is accomplished by learning everything you can about starting a business, and accessing the expertise and resources available to you at local organizations like the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation and Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre – both organizations provide business counseling and advice, access to training and resources, and even funding programs to start or grow your business.
Connect with other entrepreneurs by attending Startup Sault events like Startup Drinks and Startup Book Club. The SSM Chamber of Commerce offers networking opportunities through Take Five. You never know who you will meet at these networking functions – competitors, future customers, successful entrepreneurs, even potential business partners.
Take advantage of the available resources and do your homework – this will go a long way to set yourself up for success.
So what is your big idea?
Join us next time when we will talk about starting your business on a budget, and promoting your business using free or low-cost marketing tools and mediums.